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dj sniff on Turntablism

Definition of turntable music:

  1. instrumental use of turntable and mixer
  2. rotating device to playback prerecorded sounds

History of the turntable:

  • Phonoautograph 1857 ment for recording- mimiking the human ear
  • Edison 1877 phonograph still on wax cilinder - recording & playback
  • Berliner Gramophone 1892 no wax, just playback
  • Califone Portable Record Player 1950 build-in amp
  • Technics Direct Drive Turntables 1970

Then Taku talks a bit about the history of the turntable as an instrument. Starting with ‘home phonograph concerts’ in 1920, then Cage in 1939, Schaeffer 1948, Bronx DJ’s Grandmaster Flash & Theodore mid 70’s to Californian kids in the mid 90’s.

Different directions:

  • The dance music DJ.
  • DJ Qbert doing the DJ battle stuff, mastering the trade, very communal, sharing techniques and such.
  • Experimental turntablism is another direction of turntablism. More about sound, improvisation.

Walter Kitundu is an instrumentmaker making various instruments that incorporate the turntable. Christian Marclay with the 3-armed turntable. The Scratchophone, a Montreal based instrument.

Commercial turntables have all kinds of extra functions, sometimes the mixer build into the turntable (what do you crossfade with then??), buttons for pitch presets. The stylus itself has also evolved into a separate focus, as a piezo element.

How does digital technology come into this? It’s kindof taking over the analog stuff.

Experimenting with CD players, Nic Collins hacking them. What scratching is for the turntable is stuttering for the CD layer.

Development of CD turntables. When pause you get a stuttering sound. CD player with vinyl interface.  Digital DJing is taking over, Serato, Traktor software, various control interfaces. Software simulating the vinyl. Including the artifacts? Crackles and putting down the stylus? Mixers are also evolving with build-in audio interfaces and MIDI support - buttons doubling as analog and digital control.

Taku asks the question: what about augmenting ways of expression, experimenting on the expression part? Does all this technology help out there? Yes for the DJ, no for the hiphop turntablist.

Designing alternative tools, like people on the Alternative Turntablist Forum.

For taku it goes back to Grandmaster Flash. Showing movie WIld Style (’84). Flash has studied audio engineering. He invented the cueing, being able to listening to the record that’s not playing to beatmatch.

DJ Radar is a source of inspiration for Taku, using a sampler combined with the turntable. Taku started building his own interfaces, hardware and software. Takes time to develop, and it’s a real solo setup. When he came to STEIM he was more interested in playing improvised music, playing with others, being able to react quickly. He then explains his setup, documented on the Alternative Turntablist Forum. His performance is basically centered around the one switch in the crossfader.

Very interesting to see how Taku’s setup is build on limitation: very few controllers, a small number of records, few effects. In a way very instrumental.

The aspect of risk is important for Taku. Doesn’t want to become boring, things have to develop continuously.

Question: how do you structure the solo performance: going through a stack of selected records, usually not going back to already played vinyl.

Another question about tagging digital files: Taku mentions that that is more and more important, with the huge amounts of music available.




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